Sunday, November 27, 2011

True agrarian reform should raise farmers' incomes, improve quality of rural life

We would like to remind the government that the true goal of agrarian reform should not be just giving land to farmers, but ensuring that these lands give agricultural workers the means to "drastically" improve their lives and secure their futures.

Giving farmers their due in terms of land is just Step One in ensuring that these farmers are able to secure and sustain themselves. The greater work ahead is to ensure that these farms become viable and profitable so that the country achieves its goal of food self-sufficiency while drastically improving the incomes of our farmers and agricultural workers.

This is one key to achieving developed-nation status in a decade and a half.

The next step to land distribution is to provide integrated support programs that will involve the DA, DAR, DTI, LGUs, and even NGOs to ensure that the distributed lands will provide increased incomes for the farmers.

These support programs should be aimed at organizing more farmer groups and giving them access to capital and markets, post-harvest facilities and infrastructure, research and development, and the ability to ensure quality and consistency and supply.

The act of distributing lands will not mean anything more than a moral victory for the farmers if the government treats such as the end goal. The reason CARP has failed is that the focus was on land distribution rather than on productivity and increasing farmers' income. Land distribution is just the first step. Without support services, the farmers will fail and may end up prey to land speculators who will buy up these lands.

If we truly want to secure our country's future, then we must first secure the futures of our farmers and agricultural workers, who comprise over a third of our labor force--and over sixty percent if we consider those who are indirectly involved in the agricultural sector. If we are able to ensure the productivity of our farms and at least double their incomes, then we will help in pump-priming the economy while securing our domestic food requirements.

This is what agrarian reform ought to be about. We still have a lot of work ahead.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Land distribution alone will not address farmer's sorry plight

Distributing land is only the first step toward true agrarian reform.

The end goal really ought to be increasing the incomes of our farmers. Many of our lands are idle and unproductive, forcing most farmers to resell lands given to them.

It is critical for government to extend immediate integrated support services to guide the farmers in utilizing the lands being distributed to them.

There should be integrated programs that will involve the DA, DAR, DTI, LGUs, and even NGOs to ensure that the distributed lands will provide increased incomes for the farmers."

The act of distributing lands will not mean anything more than a moral victory for the farmers if the government treats such as the end goal. The reason CARP has failed is that the focus was on land distribution rather than on productivity and increasing farmers' income. Land distribution is just the first step. Without support services, the farmers will fail and may end up prey to land speculators who will buy up these lands.

It is a sad irony that our most crucial link to our food supply is also the weakest link in the chain. We urge the government to extend support to our farmers and provide the necessary linkages according to their needs. The whole country will benefit from the upliftment of our farmers out of poverty. This will solve our need to be food self-sufficient, plus the increased incomes in the countryside will boost demands for goods and services.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

SC ruling on Luisita, victory for farmers

We welcome the Supreme Court's ruling to distribute almost 5,000 hectares of land from Hacienda Luisita to over 6,000 farmer-worker beneficiaries.

This is a victory for our farmers. Perhaps the ruling was long overdue, but this is a good start toward attaining equity and toward the realization of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.

We would like to see more such victories for those still awaiting land distribution. We must give our farmer-workers their due. They are our crucial link to our food supply, as such we must do all we can to secure them. Our next crucial challenge, then, will be to make the land viable and productive in order to improve the farmers' incomes and release them from bondage.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Tomorrow, the entire country relives its mourning as we commemorate the second anniversary of the crime known as the "Maguindanao Massacre."

It's been two years since the gruesome event and still our countrymen cry out for justice for the victims of the Maguindanao massacre. It was the worst single instance of electoral violence in our country's history and the deadliest affront against freedom of the press. It gave us international notoriety as one of the most dangerous places for journalists. We must never forget that day when the culture of impunity showed us its worst manifestation.

Until when will we have to wait for justice to be served? It is exactly this failure to solve all, save for a pitiful handful, of these murder cases--as well as an ineptitude in enforcing existing laws--that has bred this culture of impunity. The government must exhaust all efforts to bring justice to those victims and expedite the countless unsolved cases of extrajudicial killings. Until then, let us never forget the date when this culture of impunity reared its ugly and deadly head, costing us the lives of 58 innocent civilians, including 32 media workers. We support the declaration of November 23 of every year as a National Day to End Impunity and we vow to never forget what this means for us.

In line with this, we also would like to share with you that we have filed a resolution declaring November 23 of every year to be a national day to end impunity. We invite you to read the full text of the resolution HERE, and to also view the website of the International Day to End Impunity at

Let's explore meat export to South Korea

As we welcome South Korean president Lee Yung-Bak to the Philippines, we also ask that they consider trade agreements with our country.

The recent recognition and declaration of the Office International des Epizooties (OIE) that the entire Philippines is FMD-free without vaccination is a fact that we should be proud of. We should explore boosting exports to South Korea, whose economic thrust is geared towards the industrial sector. We can fill their agricultural needs.

It would be cost-effective for our South Korean neighbors to import their meat from within East Asia rather than from across the globe. Given the fact that our meats are certified FMD-free should be a big selling point for us. Our livestock and meat agricultural subsector has been enjoying steady growth over the past few years. Should we be given access to the South Korean market, there will be tremendous cascading effect on our economy from the increased incomes of our farmers.

On the legality of the DOJ-COMELEC panel, and what this could mean regarding GMA's arrest

It is my understanding that, this afternoon, the SC will deliberate on the petition filed by Mike Arroyo questioning the legality of the creation of the DOJ-COMELEC panel. Based on the findings of this panel, the COMELEC filed the electoral sabotage case last Friday. If at some point the SC declares the panel unconstitutional then the warrant of arrest issued by the RTC court where the case against Arroyo was filed will be without force and effect. The arrest warrant will be rendered void. I fear that this will be the final outcome, and I pray I am wrong.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Standing up to the Supreme Court is a constitutional duty of the executive and legislative branches under the principle of checks and balances

This latest clash between the executive and judicial branches of government is testing the limits of our constitutional democracy and, to my mind, rightly so. Clearly, the old ways and the old approaches in our efforts to fight corruption and lawlessness have failed us. The system of justice thus far has failed to ensure respect for the rule of law. Hence, we see the prevalence of lawlessness and, most unfortunately, the Supreme Court in a string of controversial rulings has helped little in restoring faith and respect for our system of justice.

These rulings include: the flip-flopping on the case involving the League of Cities, wherein the SC flip-flopped four times in a span of two years; the flip-flop in the FASAP PALEA case; the TRO against the House of Representatives when it initiated impeachment proceedings against Ombudsman Mercy Gutierrez, who was accused of protecting the ARROYOS by sitting on cases filed against them; the voiding of the Truth Commission meant to investigate the Arroyos; and the TRO last week to allow the Arroyos to leave for abroad without any certainty as to whether they are to return, nor any definitive finding as to whether her condition was indeed life threatening (See dissenting opinions of Justice Sereno and Carpio).

In fact, in all of the above-mentioned cases, the SC has courted insubordination and disrespect for what many have described as the whimsical and arbitrary exercise of judicial authority.

It is in this context that, as a member of the legislative branch of government, I am convinced that we need to push the and test the limits of our constitutional democracy and see how far we need to go, how far we need to test its efficacy to effect sweeping change and reform. Yes, this is out of the norm. Yes, this is non-conventional because, clearly, we cannot do the same thing over and over again and expect to see real change happen. We need to do things differently. We need to take risks and venture into unfamiliar legal and constitutional terrain if necessary. We need to experiment with new approaches. We need to be bold and daring and--yes--even irreverent, if we wish to see real change happen.

Hence, we support the position taken by Secretary Leila De Lima, and we urge the Supreme Court to read the writing on the wall. Arbitrary and whimsical court orders, directed towards a co-equal, have no place in a constitutional democracy. It must be opposed vigorously. In fact, both the executive and legislative branches of government must unite in its exercise of its constitutional duty and its obligation to serve as a check on a wayward judiciary.

No, this is not anarchy. This is democracy at work. It is the principle of checks and balances at work. It is, to my mind, the sworn duty of the executive and the legislative departments to act as a check on a wayward judiciary. We will respect the Supreme Court, yes, but we will do so as a co-equal and not as a meek, submissive and inutile subordinate.

My statement on the latest clash between the executive and the judiciary

This latest clash between the executive and the judiciary is testing the limits of our constitutional democracy—and rightly so. The old ways and old approaches in our efforts to fight corruption have failed us. The system of justice has by and large failed to ensure respect for the rule of law. This explains why lawlessness and disregard for the rule of law continue to plague us.

The Supreme Court, in quite a number of recent decisions, most unfortunately, has not helped much in restoring faith and respect for our justice system. In fact, it has courted insubordination and disrespect for its almost-whimsical and arbitrary exercise of judicial authority in a number of recent cases.

It is in this context that we must, in fact, push and test the limits of our constitutional democracy and see how far we can go to effect sweeping change and reforms. We need to think out of the box. We need to do things differently. We need to be bold and daring and, yes, bordering on near-recklessness if we wish to effect genuine change for our nation.

It is also in this context that we support the position taken by Secretary Leila de Lima, and we urge the Supreme Court to read the writing on the wall. Arbitrary and whimsical court orders that show utter disrespect for a co-equal, whether the executive or the legislative branch of government, will be faced frontally. In fact, both the executive and the legislative branches must come together and ensure that a wayward judiciary is put in its proper place.

No, this is not anarchy. This is democracy at work. This is checks and balances at work. It is the sworn duty of the executive and the legislative departments to act as a check on a wayward judiciary.

Whether it the legislative or the executive branch, to stand up and oppose the Supreme Court is to fulfill our constitutional duty to serve as a check on a co-equal branch. The Supreme Court should think long and hard before it punishes Secretary de Lima. They may have to cite many others in contempt and there won't be enough jails in the land to place all those who have grown sick and tired of the pervasive corruption and inutility in the justice system we have all come to know all these years now.

Friday, November 18, 2011

My statement on arrest warrant vs GMA

We welcome this latest development. The Supreme Court TRO for all intent and purposes becomes ineffectual because of the latest turn of events. This is clearly a victory for justice and public accountability.

It is ironic that it had to take a lower court rather than the Supreme Court to ensure that the pursuit of justice and public accountability would not be frustrated.

Gloria Arroyo should face the music. This is not persecution. This is not a mockery of justice. This is a former President being held to account for her alleged involvement in electoral sabotage. In Taiwan, in South Korea, former presidents have been jailed and held to account for their acts.

Regardless of our status in society, no one is above the law—not even a former President.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Make sure Arroyos come back to face charges

We remind the Supreme Court and the Department of Justice that it is the government's obligation to ensure that the Arroyos return to the country to face the charges already filed against them.

For the sake of the credibility and image of the Supreme Court, I hope that with their decision, the safeguards they have put in place will be sufficient to ensure that the Arroyos return because if they do not, then the Supreme Court must be prepared to take the flak from a public disgusted with abuse and corruption in government.

If they flee, it would be a slap on the face of the Blue Ribbon Committee which recommended the filing of graft charges against the former First Gentleman.

Also, the report on the PCSO investigation by the (Blue Ribbon) Committee is being finalized. The efforts of the committee would be for naught should they flee. Also it was recommended by the 13th Congress that GMA be held accountable in the mismanagement of the fertilizer fund during her term, as well as her involvement in the ZTE-NBN scandal.

The Senate itself has an interest in ensuring that the Arroyo couple does not flee, considering the time and effort we put into the investigation and, more importantly, the findings of wrongdoing that require accountability on their part. The senate has been criticized in the past as conducting investigations that lead to nowhere. If the Arroyos flee and refuse to return we would again have another set of investigations that would be for naught. The ZTE-NBN controversy, the fertilizer scam, the PNP choppers controversy all cry out for closure, all investigated by the Senate, all needing accountability on the part of the Arroyos.

It is in the interest of the Senate as an institution to view the matter of the right to travel of the Arroyos in a broader sense. We sifted through the evidence. We sat through hundreds of hours of testimonies. We secured documentary evidence as proof of wrongdoing. We were even brought to court on the issue of executive privilege precisely because we were interested in the truth. Given all these, we ought to do more than just accept the argument that the Arroyos are free to leave the country and that we cannot do anything about it. The same goes for the Supreme Court. The people deserve the truth and it may again evade us as if we allow the Arroyos to leave the country despite the fact that legal proceedings have already been instituted against them.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Philippines deserves more in aid, military benefits from United States

The US still owes the Philippines billions more in military and economic aid.

After sixty years of cooperation with the United States, and in ten years of having implemented the Visiting Forces Agreement despite its lopsidedness, the Philippines has received only $507 million in military assistance from 2001 to 2011. Other countries have received far more for far less cooperation. Take Pakistan, for instance. News reports say that from 2002 to 2010, they received close to $20 billion in security and economic aid even as they failed to disclose the whereabouts of terrorist Osama bin Laden within their own territory.

The Philippines has the right to demand more from the United States, given its full cooperation on military matters, unlike other countries that have harbored terrorists yet continue to receive billions in aid each year. Kung tutuusin, barya lang ang nakukuha natin sa Amerika, pero sobra-sobra ang binibigay natin sa kanila.

We entered into the mutual defense treaty and the VFA to modernize our military and to strengthen our capacity to defend our sovereignty yet we get bread crumbs relative to what their other allies and security partners have received, and our military is far from modernized.

Luging-lugi tayo sa VFA. This is why we have long been clamoring for its abrogation and review.

While we acknowledge the value of our alliances and relationship with other countries such as the US, the respect must be mutual. We have been keeping our end of the bargain yet much is left to be desired from their end. A decade has passed and the times and circumstances have changed. The world is a different place. We must review and renegotiate the provisions of the VFA to better suit the needs of the times.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Mike Arroyo, Pres. Aquino is not your butler

Mike Arroyo's challenge to President Aquino to accompany them as GMA seeks treatment abroad is ridiculous. The former first couple must be reminded that they are no longer in power.

This corrupted sense of entitlement speaks volumes of how this couple treats high public office. How dare they view the office of the President as some sort of butler service they can avail of to attend to their personal needs. The President has infinitely more important things to attend to than act as 'alalay' to the Arroyos. Enough is enough. Their abusive and corrupted ways should be exposed and opposed.

We support the decision of the Department of Justice not to allow GMA to travel abroad, saying there were too many inconsistencies in the statements coming from the former president's camp.Perhaps the former first couple think that they are still in power, and that their whims would still be met unconditionally as they had been when they were in power.

Kalokohan ang hamon ni Mike Arroyo. Ano'ng akala niya sa Pangulo? Isang dakilang alalay o utusan nila na dapat samahan sila sa ibang bansa? Mas maraming mahahalagang bagay ang dapat na pagtuunan ng pansin ng ating Pangulo. Palibhasa matagal na nilang tinutulak ang kanilang makasarili at personal na interes nung sila ang nakaupo kaya pati ang Pangulo gusto nilang gamitin para itulak ang personal nilang mga interes. Tama na sila. Tapos na ang kanilang mapang-abuso't mapanlinlang na paghahari. Itigil na nila ang kalokohan.

Image Source: Ellen Tordesillas' blog

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

My statement on DOJ's decision Re: GMA

We support the decision of Secretary Leila De Lima. Both Mike and Gloria Arroyo are facing a string of criminal cases now being investigated by the Ombudsman. Clearly, the temptation for them to flee and evade criminal prosecution cannot simply be ignored.

Should the Arroyos leave the country, never to return, it would be a big blow to the anti-corruption efforts of this administration. The decision is consistent with the anti-corruption campaign of this government. They have other legal remedies that they may avail of should they disagree with this decision, but this decision has to be made to send a signal to our people that this administration is serious in its anti-corruption efforts.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Cold storage facilities investments as key to lowering food prices

Putting up of cold storage in Benguet, Davao, and Bukidnon for their vegetables; the west coast area of Bicol Peninsula for the development of their line tuna industry ; north and south Cotabato for their fruits; and more strategic areas around the country will help insulate the Philippines from the trend of rising food prices around the globe

There is a need for the country to beef up infrastructure within the agricultural supply chain.

Cold Storage facilities will prolong the shelf life of our agricultural produce and products, and minimize wastage. We also need these storage facilities to buffer our supply from possible typhoons that might still hit us before the year ends.

These facilities will increase the income of our farmers and fisherfolk who will get better prices for their produce as quality is maintained for a longer period. These facilities give them leverage and prevents them from being at the mercy of price manipulators and unscrupulous middlemen who take advantage of the perishability of the good s in the hands of the farmers.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Travel would be a non-issue if former President were more truthful about state of health

Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo brought upon herself her current predicament and should not blame the Department of Justice for not allowing her to travel.

She should have been forthright about her health status from the very beginning. She can hardly blame DOJ Secretary Leila De Lima on the decision not to allow her to travel as there are discrepancies in her camp’s statements on her medical needs, there are those questionable itineraries, and differing numbers of her entourage. DOH Secretary Enrique Ona’s assessment of GMA is that she is fine. What is the real score?

The former President is hardly known for being transparent and that any doubts cast upon her has basis considering her history. If she has been untruthful to us in the past about major issues affecting our country, from governance to the state of our coffers, what’s to stop her from being less than truthful about her own health?

If the DOJ requires a lot more from her camp as assurance that she will not flee the country from prosecution, then GMA’s camp will have to bear with the orders of the Justice Secretary.

No one is asking them to beg. Going through the legal process is not begging. It appears they have been used to taking legal shortcut that they now consider going through these proceedings as an act begging. Until it is set aside, it is the rule. They should respect our rules, and acting as the process is beneath them by likening it to begging is a display of arrogance. If they do not agree with the position taken by the DOJ, they are free to bring the case to court.

Image Source: My Pinoy TV

Friday, November 4, 2011

Address issues of accountability and prevent escalation of violence

As peace talks resume today in Kuala Lumpur, we urge the GPH and MILF Peace Panel to discuss extensively various issues in the peace negotiations that have been left unresolved to prevent the escalation of violence between government and MILF forces. These include: areas of temporary stay, lost commands and efforts to bring them to justice, and the issue of the alleged complicity between the MILF and rogue elements.

We have already lost countless lives to decades of violence. To help us move forward and ensure that these deaths are not in vain, we must ensure that the next stage of the peace process addresses the gaps and loose ends in the negotiations. We also need to be clear about our expectations and manage the outcomes of the process.

We owe this to our country whose people have been divided because of the senseless killings.

Four decades of war has cost us at least a hundred billion pesos, and the atrocities made to our people have been unspeakable. We need to end this war within this generation for our country to finally take off, but the framework has to be clear and the loopholes must be addressed for the peace process to move forward. We urge both sides of the panel to be clear about the terms of the peace process and for them to abide by these terms. We also urge that those who will disregard these terms be held accountable under the full force of the law.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Next AFP Chief-of-Staff must help build lasting peace

The next Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Chief-of-Staff must be someone who can help end the insurgency swiftly and be an instrument of lasting peace.

We thank AFP Chief-of-Staff General Eduardo Oban, Jr., who will be retiring in December 2011, for his service to the country thus far, but we are also asking the President to appoint a successor who can help achieve this administration’s goal of lasting peace. We need someone who can help end insurgency at the soonest possible time through aggressive peace talks and creative peace-building.

This administration has already made headway in the peace process, and it has proven its sincerity in working for peace. The next AFP chief must work with the President’s mission to end war and insurgency through dialogue, collaboration, and rebuilding our communities.

Let us also remember that one of the root causes of insurgency is poverty. If we are able to establish peace and order in the countryside, then we can pave the way for progress and prosperity in those areas.

With peace, the AFP can help the civilian government in reconstructing communities through public services, public works, and maintaining peace and order against criminal elements.

There is much work, much rebuilding to be done. But we first need to end this decades-old war. Without insurgency, which has already cost us over P100 billion in the past four decades, we can allocate the much-needed resources for the basic services, infrastructure, and the necessary investments in the countryside and agricultural development.

We can help create the programs needed to strengthen agricultural and food production, but we must first win the peace. Without peace, there can be no progress. The next AFP Chief-of-Staff must make peace his mandate.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Show sincerity to peace process by surrendering Asnawi

We call on the separatist group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to prove its sincerity to the ongoing peace process by surrendering wanted MILF commander Dan Laksaw Asnawi to the authorities.

Their refusal is a blow to the peace process. Coddling wanted individuals and the criminally accused does not speak well of their motives and intentions. The MILF, like the GRP, should learn to bite the bullet if it truly wishes to see the peace process see fruition. The MILF should not play hardball lest it become tagged as a terrorist organization uninterested in peace and wanting only to sow terror and mayhem until its objectives are met. We are for peace and we challenge the MILF to show that it is truly sincere in wanting peace as well.

The President has shown his commitment to peace by flying to Japan to meet (MILF Chairman) Murad Ebrahim. PNoy went out on a limb for peace; MILF should be willing to do the same. PNoy showed his commitment by action and not merely by words. We challenge the MILF to do the same.

Swift, decisive action for peace is what we want to see from the MILF leadership. Mere talk of peace is not enough.

Amidst uncertainties in the world economy, Agri and Agribusiness sector will spare Philippines from recession

In a report released by the International Labor Organization (ILO), the group predicts that recession and massive job loss will sweep across the globe and spark social unrest.

The Philippines has been fortunate to have been spared from the effects of global recession in the past few years. This time we have to be ahead of the curve, so to speak. The government must focus on generating more jobs within the country’s agriculture and fisheries sector. This sector has been neglected and taken for granted for far too long, which is unfortunate as the sector holds the key to boosting the Philippine economy.

While the BPO sector has provided Filipinos employment opportunities, the country must look for long-term and sustainable solutions in addressing social inequities and unemployment.

Over 66 percent of our labor force is directly and indirectly employed by the agriculture and fisheries sector. With nearly half of our GDP coming from agriculture, fisheries and agribusiness enterprises, we cannot continue to ignore the agriculture and fisheries sector and keep our rural population poor. By modernizing our agriculture and fisheries sector and increasing the incomes of nearly half the nation’s population who live in the rural areas, the multiplier effect on the economy will be stupendous.

When the rural folks’ incomes increase there will be a corresponding increase in demand for goods and services. Banks will have more clients. Car manufacturers will have to increase their output to meet the demands of increased spending capacity of the rural folk. Home appliance stores, manufacturers and all other consumer products will see a huge jump in their sales and in production to meet half the country’s spending habits transformed by a robust agriculture and agribusiness economy.

However, focusing on the agricultural sector will not be an easy task, as Filipinos have a lowly perception of the sector. Our collective mindset sees agriculture as demeaning and dirty, and best left to the poor farmer or fisherfolk. This paradigm has kept us from progressing economically. The multiplier effect of raising the incomes of our agriculture and fisheries workers numbering nearly seventy percent would lift the economy tremendously, as the sector will attract more investors, generate more jobs, and ensure that our farmers—now aging considerably as their average age is 57 years old—will have succession.

All these can help turn our economy around and save us from the massive effects of a global recession. The rest of the world is already beefing up efforts to provide jobs and job security for their own citizens. By making wise investments and policy reforms in the agriculture, agribusiness, and fisheries sectors, we can generate the jobs that our people need to be able to make a good living at home and be spared the effects of financial crises in other parts of the world.

AIESECers and World-Changing Leadership

*Below is the speech I delivered during the AIESEC Alumni Asia Pacific Conference 2011 last October 22, at the Peninsula Hotel, Manila.

e are here this morning to talk about “AIESECers and World-Changing Leadership,” but I think it's first important to pause, reflect, and see just how much everything is changing all around the world.

A decade ago, many of us would have described change in the context of technology, market shifts, behavioral patterns among consumers—changes that would have affected mostly industries and nations on a domestic level but which have left the world largely the way it was. And then 9/11 happened and shook not just New York, not just the United States, but the whole world to its core. Overnight, big changes happened that affected not just the New York skyline and air travel, but also international relations, military operations, and the very lives of our own people. Suddenly, the world was at war against terrorism, and nothing was quite the same.

The changes that took place in the world beginning September 11, 2001 were aggravated by many more massive changes that happened all over the world. There was the great Asian tsunami of December 2004, which affected the countries around the Indian Ocean (Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and India). There was the global financial crisis of 2008, which turned the banking system on its head and sent many countries on its knees. There was the Arab Spring of 2011, where young people from all corners of the Middle East used technology to call for reforms and take back power into their own hands. There is an impending food crisis not only in Africa but in many other parts of the world, and international organizations have been warning us against civil unrest due to hunger. There is the constant, imminent wrath of climate change which continuously threatens to destroy property and lives.

The world is constantly shifting, constantly on edge. While there have been many positive developments in science and technology, in the arts, and in our shared quest for human development, larger, more urgent issues always seem to threaten to turn the world upside-down. This then begs the question: How does one lead in a world like this? What kind of leaders do we need for a time when old orders and systems are being crushed and when nothing seems predictable?

I am reminded of my early years in AIESEC, in the early '80s, when the situation in the Philippines was just as tense and as chaotic as it often seems to be these days. Back then, the Philippines was under a dictator who seemed bent to keep us in the dark ages. The Philippine economy was in near-collapse, jobs were scarce, our civil liberties were curtailed, and people were being killed for speaking out against tyranny. The future seemed hopeless, and when a senator and a patriot named Ninoy Aquino was killed just as he arrived home from exile, the Filipino people was caught in between raging anger and dumbing despair. It took us almost three years to find our voices again and finally overthrow a dictatorship as a people. Finally, in 1986—twenty-five years ago—the Philippines staged the first bloodless revolution that became known as People Power.

It is said that People Power sparked the fire that led to the crumbling of many other oppressive regimes in other parts of the world. Three years after Filipinos took to the streets to oust a tyrant, Europe found itself changing with the end of the Cold War, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Velvet Revolution. In more recent decades, China has undergone its own silent, bloodless revolution through the opening up of trade and markets. From a country that was once beset with poverty and strife, China is now one of the world's largest superpowers. All these changes that began one generation ago have helped to spark hope in humanity's shared future.

Why am I going back in history to 25 years ago, and what does this have to do with the world's current crises and problems? When we look back at the events that shaped those revolutions, we will see some common threads that we need to rediscover, as a human race, if we are to find our way back into a brighter future.

1. We need to DARE to RE-IMAGINE. And when we talk about re-imagining, we mean more than just “thinking out of the box” or being creative or innovative or resourceful. When we talk about re-imagining, we mean removing all boxes in our heads—all concept of boundaries and limitations—and we need to change the way we think about ourselves and our world.

When the Filipinos took to the streets in 1986 to oust the dictator Marcos, we dared imagine ourselves a free people living in a democracy. When our people squared off with huge tanks and guns and with nothing to shield them but their own bodies, we dared to re-imagine that change can happen without bloodshed. The same can be said for the many other revolutionaries that worked for freedom in many other parts of the world—in Germany, in Eastern Europe, in China. They first dared to re-imagine that such changes were actually possible.

2. We need to have COURAGE to realize our visions. In order to effect world-changing transformations, we need to be leaders with the courage and the tenacity to see our visions through to fruition. We need to be like generals leading our men from the front, instead of commanding them from the safety of a desk. If you look at many of the world's visionaries, public leaders, and game-changing innovators and entrepreneurs, you will see that many of them took risks even—and especially—when they knew that failure was possible. The Filipino people confronting the army tanks in 1986 did it at the risk of death. Looking at a more recent example: the late great Steve Jobs did it with Apple, even when nobody believed in him and even when his own company kicked him out for a decade. I have always believed that the things that are worth risking for are the things that will truly make a difference in the end.

3. We need to RALLY PEOPLE around our vision, and we need to work together to make a large impact. All of the examples I have just spoken about talk about the power of people, the power of collective action. (Even Steve Jobs, for all of his genius, could not create the products that he did were it not for his engineers and product designers at Apple.) Especially in this day and age, no leader can afford to stand on his own. If you want to lead, and if you want to change the world, then you’ve got to be ready to INSPIRE people. Inspire people with your vision, with your words, with your actions. Know what makes people tick, and motivate them to take the journey with you. The world cannot be changed by any single individual, and if you think that it's “just me against the world,” then be prepared to fail. World-changing leadership is that which breaks barriers, builds bridges, and brings people together.

When we look at all the changes happening in the world today, it is clear that we need to be and do more than what previous generations have been and have done, in order to make meaningful changes that can reverse the damage brought about by conflict, greed, oppression, and climate change, among others. Einstein himself said that “We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

It will take a different level of thinking—a new kind of re-imagining—to quash terrorism, just as it will take a different kind of re-imagining to reverse the damages of the global financial crisis or climate change. As we move further into the 21st century, we need to be two steps ahead, not just of the competition, but of our own selves, in order to be effective and inspiring leaders. We need to know how to bridge gaps and to connect people and ideas.

There's a fourth quality of world-changing leadership that I'd like to share, and I'd like to put it in the context of my own work as chairman of the Senate committee on agriculture and food. Here in the Philippines, the average income of a farmer is P23,000, or roughly $500 a year. The average age of such a farmer is 57 years old, which means our farmers are poor and they are old and dying. The very people who are supposed to be putting food on our tables are the ones who cannot feed themselves. The Philippines is heading into a food crisis, and unless we do something drastic to improve the incomes of our farmers and ensure sustainable food production, then our people will go hungry.

In an age of rapid technological advancements, it will be easy to say that technology can solve many of our problems. Technology, as we've seen in the case of the Arab Spring, for instance, is only an enabler or an amplifier of change. But it cannot solve the world's problems. It cannot make systems more just. It cannot teach people to care for the planet. It cannot stop wars. I would like to believe that the fourth quality of world-changing leadership, and perhaps the most important, is that we need to put PEOPLE FIRST. We need to practice the kind of leadership that is inspiring and can move mountains, but we need to be clear about who it is that we're moving the mountains for. Are you leading for the sake of power and influence, or money and fame, or are you leading to truly make a difference in the lives of people? People like children, or refugees, or workers, or, in my case, farmers and fisherfolk and the people who depend on them.

If we look closely at many of the problems besetting the planet today, we will see that they exist because of selfishness, greed, and lust for power. War is happening all over because we have forgotten our common humanity. Hunger is prevalent because those who have plenty are protecting the status quo at the expense of those with none. The earth is dying because of our greed and our penchant for consumption and waste, without regard for what will be left on this earth for our children. All our problems exist because we have failed to put people—the Other, the greater majority—first.

In closing, I urge each one of you here today to take a closer look at the kind of leadership that you are promoting and living out. Is it a visionary kind of leadership—one that re-imagines humanity's shared future? Is it a bold and courageous kind of leadership—one that is not afraid to dare and to do what is right? Is it the kind of leadership that inspires people across nations and languages, the kind that brings people together instead of breaking them apart? Lastly, is it the kind of leadership that moves with empathy and compassion— the kind that recognizes the humanness in the other and, thus, acts for the greater good? If it is, then we'll need to work harder at it, and we'll need to build more leaders of this mold—AIESECers and non-AIESECers alike. We've got to acknowledge the challenges that the whole world is facing today, and we've got to work as one people to get ourselves out of this mess.

The world is giving us one huge opportunity to step up, and if we do this right, then we won’t just change the world. We just might be able to save it.

Overhaul present system for agriculture extension workers, build capacity for global competitiveness

An “overhaul” of the present system regarding agricultural extension workers is needed in order to build global competitiveness.

News reports cited Mr. Yasunori Araki, an official of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan, saying that the Philippines had a “very poor government (agriculture) extension system,” pointing out that only private firms had good extension workers. Mr. Araki further observed that Filipino agriculture extension workers are “not so competent” and “take too much time” compared to agriculture extension workers from Thailand and Vietnam and this is a major stumbling block in getting foreign investments.

We can explore different options in making these drastic and urgent reforms, One is to review our current agricultural extension policy and institutionalize programs for agriculture and fisheries extension workers; another would be to work closely with the private sector for capacity-building that is at par with private and global standards. We will exhaust all options and look at the best possible solutions to this decades-old challenge.

While we acknowledge Mr. Araki’s observations about the need to build and strengthen the capacity of our agriculture and fisheries extension workers and of the policy itself, we also commit to turning this situation around as efficiently and as effectively as possible so that we aren’t discounted out of the race by our investor-neighbors. Matagal na naman po nating sinasabi na, kung hindi tayo kikilos para sa ating mga magsasaka at mangingisda ay maiiwan talaga tayo sa kangkungan. This statement from the Japanese government is a harsh wake-up call, but we needed to hear it.

We have long said that government needs to invest more in the agriculture and fisheries sector if it is to turn this nation around. We are an agricultural country, first and foremost, and if we want to achieve developed-nation status in 15 years, we will need to make radical changes in the agricultural sector to ensure food security for ourselves and the region. Instead of being a top importer of agricultural staples, we should turn the situation around to be one of the top exporters in the region, if not in the world.

We also have gains by a public-private initiative called Agriculture & Fisheries 2025 (AF 2025) as a “template” for reforming other areas of the sector. The combined efforts of AF 2025 stakeholders have made us effective in increasing the agriculture budget by 54% in 2012, as well as increasing crop insurance coverage and increasing the budget for the coconut industry. We can continue to tap AF 2025 as a resource in strengthening the agricultural extension policy and programs.

A concrete next step is to review a pending bill strengthening the national agriculture and fisheries extension system. The bill has already been heard and is now with the Technical Working Group. We will review this piece of legislation while looking at other alternatives so we can find the best possible course of action.

This matter is long overdue and must be regarded with urgency.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Why we need to save the Ifugao rice terraces

For 2,000 years, the Ifugao rice terraces have helped to shape the culture, identity, and livelihood not only of our brothers and sisters in the Cordilleras, but also of the Filipino people. They have become symbols of our ingenuity and vision, our rootedness in nature, and the value of community, among others. We cannot allow the rice terraces, as well as these values, to be eroded over time. These help define our being Filipino.

According to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites page on the rice terraces:

"The Ifugao Rice Terraces epitomize the absolute blending of the physical, socio-cultural, economic, religious, and political environment. Indeed, it is a living cultural landscape of unparalleled beauty.

"The Ifugao Rice Terraces are the priceless contribution of Philippine ancestors to humanity. Built 2000 years ago and passed on from generation to generation, the Ifugao Rice Terraces represent an enduring illustration of an ancient civilization that surpassed various challenges and setbacks posed by modernization."

The rest of the world has recognized our very own rice terraces, yet we have contributed largely to its destruction. In 2001, the Ifugao rice terraces were placed in the UNESCO World Heritage in Danger list.

The continuous deterioration of the terraces, as well as recent damage wrought by Typhoons Pedring and Quiel, have brought the total amount of destruction to over P122 billion. Aside from this, our Ifugao farmers are losing a large part of their livelihood and culture.

Here are some photos of the rice terraces' destruction:

We cannot kill the Ifugao farmers’ source of life, culture, and pride. We must do whatever we can to ensure that future generations will be able to enjoy the rice terraces and make a sustainable living out of them. We owe it not only to them or to ourselves, but to our ancestors who have entrusted the rice terraces to us over the last 2,000 years.

Together with Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat and other stakeholders, we are embarking on a fund-raising campaign to help save the Ifugao rice terraces. We need all the help we can get, and we encourage you to get in touch with us to get involved.

Please visit our Facebook page, "Save the Ifugao Rice Terraces campaign", as well as @SaveIRT on Twitter. You may also email to be part of this initiative.